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Thumbs down on brunch at Taco Maria

omotosando | May 11, 201503:54 PM

With all the acclaim about Taco Maria, I was pretty excited to try it. The online brunch menu looked pretty insipid, but this was Mother's Day and it was $48 a person and you had to give a credit card deposit of $25 a person, so I figured they must be doing something special for Mother's Day.

Bad assumption. Instead, they just had their regular brunch, which I believe is usually $32 a person instead of the $48 a person price on Mother's Day.

So here is what we had.

The first course was a choice of toasted bread, topped with beans and cheese and butter on the side or a small bowl of yogurt. None of us ordered the yogurt because none of us was in the mood for a bowl of yogurt at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. In my mind, yogurt is either something you have at 8:00 a.m. for breakfast or maybe an after workout snack, but definitely not the first course of a three-course $48 a person prix fixe lunch menu. (You can call it brunch, but if you are serving it at 2:00 p.m., it's lunch.)

So we all ordered the bread. The bread was perfectly fine, but not amazing. More like what a chef might send out as an amuse bouche then what I would consider to be an appropriate first course at a decent restaurant.

The next course was a choice of oatmeal or pancakes. Again, neither of us was in the mood for oatmeal at 2:00 p.m. We also weren't in the mood for pancakes at that hour, but that seemed the lesser of two evils. The pancakes were fine. As fine as you would find at any hotel breakfast or at a zillion casual cafes.

I was hoping the third course would make up for everything. The choices were Chilaquiles or Huevos Pescador, which was crab on a brioche with poached egg, avocado and hollandaise. While the toast and pancakes were tasty for what they were (toast and pancakes), I hated the Huevos Pescador. The overwhelming taste was of greasy lemony sugar - the sugar flavor I guess coming from the sugar in the brioche dough and there must have been sugar in the hollandaise sauce as well. So yeah, we had a first course of bread, second course of pancakes and third course of sugary brioche doused in lemon sauce with some overcooked crab hiding below the lemon sugar sauce. One of our party tried the chilaquiles and I had a taste and was not impressed (nor was the person who ordered it).

The tab for three for this brunch with tax and tip was $181.44. Yep, over $180 for bread, pancakes and brioche. No coffee, no dessert (although after all those sugary carbs, we would have hardly wanted dessert).

It was hard not to leave feeling churlish. And I would have felt churlish about that brunch even if we had paid the regular price of $32 per person rather than the jacked up Mother's Day price.

The only thing that left me feeling slightly less churlish was that the restaurant ended up waiving our $25 corkage fee because we had turned down mimosas that were apparently included with brunch in favor of our own wine. I don't mind paying $25 or $35 for corkage, but I do expect stemware for that price and surprisingly the restaurant does not seem to have stemware, since our wine was served in tumblers.

Of course, this is just a review of brunch and perhaps dinner is as amazing as everyone says. Still, I would not be anxious to return.

Someone else here waxed rhapsodic about the OC Mix, but to me it was a particularly uninteresting and ugly concrete suburban shopping mall and I'm not big on shopping mall dining unless you can walk into an amazing restaurant and feel transported and forget you are in a mall, which is not the case at Taco Maria.

Taco Maria,
El Pescador
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